The vigilante app Citizen, your source for perusing footage of your neighbors’ flaming homes and potentially deadly car accidents, is soliciting applications for users looking to livestream nearby emergencies. For $200-$250 a day, you can be the hero this city needs; alternatively, a tabloid fiend with a smartphone slowly devolving into a bug-eyed insomniac and losing any remaining shred of humanity because human suffering = great content.
Citizen confirmed to Gizmodo that it’s had such paid camera people, or “Street Teams,” since its inception. It currently has 12 team members in “some cities,” a spokesperson said. They described the street team mission as modeling “responsible broadcasting practices” by demonstrating how to broadcast “in an effective, helpful, and safe way.”
A job listing on JournalismJobs.com, which Citizen confirmed is for a Street Team member, describes the position as freelance newshound who would be dispatched to locations where a dog has been locked in a car, someone has reported a missing child, a house is on fire, or other “events.” Applicants are expected to “interview” police and witnesses. It adds that it’ll never ask users to visit “actively dangerous” scenes and that you’re supposed to stay behind police tape. The job pays $200 per 8-hour shift in New York and $250 per 10-hour shift in Los Angeles. In LA, you get a driver.
Citizen told the New York Post that one user who’s streamed 1,600 videos and broadcasts from numerous scenes each night works for the app. The Daily Dot reported on Citizen’s use of “street teams” in Los Angeles in late June, having noticed a man who seemed to stumble across one disturbance after another. It’s not hard to imagine how dispatching laypeople to scenes of accidents and injuries could go sideways; just look at Citizen. In May, an anchor for the app’s live pseudo-news channel expressed regret for offering a $30,000 bounty with a photo of an innocent man who it claimed was a suspected arsonist and setting off a manhunt.
Shortly after, Citizen also dropped a program in which it dispatched a Citizen-branded SUV to a users’ aid, a program which one anonymous former employee described to Motherboard as a “secondary emergency response network.”
The app, now fifth in the App Store under “news,” monitors police scanners and broadcasts the location of active crime scenes and emergencies. It’s ostensibly a tool to alert citizens of nearby and imminent danger, but also the apparatus for vigilante justice—Citizen was more upfront with the latter pitch back when it launched as “Vigilante” in 2016. (A sensational launch ad, modeled after a crime procedural, shows male users coming to rescue a woman sprinting from a hooded stalker while others livestream from their windows.) The App Store banned “Vigilante,” which changed its name to the more anodyne “Citizen,” but in 2019, founder Andrew Frame told Forbes that everything else stayed the same.
Here’s what’s up from New York City over the past 24 hours: several fires, overturned cars (shot from drivers’ seats), a man shot in the foot, a report of a missing child. A person who looks no older than 16 can be seen narrating as the cameraperson films a victim lying on the ground, remarking, “shash victim, in the flesh.” Commenters frequently lament each as an example of the city’s scourges: aggressive driving, supposedly rampant crime, the “revolving door” justice system, and Democrats, commonly laced with racial epithets and packed with cheers for cops.
Citizen’s cop-glorifying comments section occasionally veers toward violent ideations. From my photo roll, a memorable screengrab over a video of a Black Lives Matter protest: “They better not be in my way when I drive down the street in an hour.”